Social media spamming

Social media has been embraced by businesses small and large. It is great to see this and it is wonderful to see an interaction between supplier and provider that we have never seen before. All of a sudden it seems like companies actually do care what people are saying about them and they do care about their issues.

Unfortunately this embracing of social media also seems to be being abused. Time and time again I am seeing tweets such as :

“Win an iPad, simply retweet #SpammingCompany”

Really? Would people really do this?

It seems they will.

All of a sudden there are tweet after tweets going out with said companies advert. Whichever way you slice it, this is spam. It is an advert from a company that people did not sign up to receive.

Would these same people be so quick to send out the companies advert to all their friends email addresses if there was the carrot of a “free ipad”? Would they spam their friends in traditional methods? Possibly, but I think a lot of people would think twice about it.

It is a shame that companies are abusing social media in this way. If every company started behaving like this then Twitter would end up with such spam-noise that it will cease to be useful/interesting/engaging, and all you will get is tweet after tweet of people begging for iPads/iPhones etc.

Yes, it is very cheap advertising for a company, and gets the word out very quickly, but it is not what social media is for, and de-values the content on the social media platform.

#RantOver

New iTunes 10 logo – by Paul, age 5 and a half

I sat down to watch the Apple presentation last week, interested to see what new products and software releases Apple are coming out with. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the new iTunes 10 logo.

Now I am not one to get all upset about these things like a lot of people on Twitter/Facebook/Forums etc, but as soon as it came up on the big screen I just LOL’d (yes, it really WAS out loud!). This thing looks like it was designed by an (underachieving) school kid. The first “web 2.0” tutorial I saw on the web did a better job of making a logo look good.

I can see why they wanted a new logo. The old one has a picture of a CD, and let’s face it, when was the last time we consumed music via CD (yes, I know there’s always one!)?

I could understand if they replaced the CD with an iPod or something. I can even understand the use of a musical note, but this is your bog standard “gel button” with a flat note dumped on it with a bit of glow added for good measure.

I saw a tweet where someone recommended a replacement icon, and immediately you can see it took more than 5 minutes to design:

http://dribbble.com/shots/51446-iTunes-10-Replacement-Icon

At first glance you can see straight away it is a lot more modern (dare I say it, “funky”!) and also encompasses the social media angle of the new Ping service. This icon would not look out of place on any Mac Dock.

I was trying to think how on earth this gel icon go the thumbs up and the only thing I can think of is Steve designed it. I have seen it time and time again where a client thinks they know best. I am sure a lot of you have too. You know the conversation…. “can you make my logo BIGGER?!”.

This has to be a similar situation, and we all know that at Apple nobody argues with Steve Jobs (not for long anyway).

I’d love to hear peoples views on this issue, as I am sure there are many, but looking at the amount of blog posts that have popped up discussing this it is quite clear what people think of it.

I just find it bizarre that a company founded on (and obsessed with) the fit and finish of their products can produce something as laughable as this.

I sense an iTunes 10.1 around the corner, with a slightly more polished logo 😀

How to stop people linking to your images

It is often infuriating when you find people linking to your images online. Firstly they are stealing your bandwidth, and while this may or may not be a problem depending on your host (and the popularity of the site doing the stealing) it is just not polite.

Secondly there is the issue of copyright theft, people using your images without permission, often giving the impression they own, or even created them, themselves. Again, depending on the site/person doing the stealing it may or may not be an issue.

There are a few ways of dealing with this, I will go into just a few of them in this post.

Firstly, you really want to establish whether or not the person linking you image is doing it deliberately and whether they know it is wrong. The first move is usually to simply ask them to remove it.

If you establish this is a deliberate act there are some options open to you:

  • Legal (mostly over the top and expensive)
  • Pass on the responsibility (i.e. ask their ISP to remove the site for copyright infringement)
  • Revenge (will go into this later)
  • Prevention (Instructions below)

I will explain the above points one by one:

Legal

I am not a fan of premature legal action, I think it is often over the top and unnecessary. It is nice to have the option to hand but I would personally keep it as a last resort.

Pass on the responsibility

This is often a good low-effort way of dealing with things. ISP’s don’t like lawyers and they also don’t “usually” know if you are one. If you drop them an email asking them to remove the offending site due to copyright infringement (or even better drop them a letter) then they will often act pretty quickly. This really does depend on the ISP though, so there are mixed results for this method.

Revenge

If you are SURE they are doing it deliberately stealing your images then follow these steps to make their eyes water (or just give them bad press)

  1. Rename your image
  2. Change the link in your HTML to match the new name (so it looks the same on your site)
  3. Change the image (e.g. boat.jpg) to an image of something “different” (you know what I mean)

As long as the linked image has the same filename then people going to the offending site will no longer see the picture of a “boat” but will either see a jpg with your own message or an image of your choice 😉

Prevention

This way is usually the best way of preventing people linking your images (it won’t prevent them stealing them though, but that is another issue)

As long as you have an Apache server (most are) then put a file called “.htaccess” (don’t forget the dot!) into your images folder.

Add the following lines to it, and save it:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?yourwebsite.com/.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg)$ - [F]

With this in place, any gif or jpg images linked from anywhere other than your site will fail to display.

Like doctors often say, prevention is best. I do agree with this, but I also believe “revenge is sweet” 😀

Is Facebook overstepping the privacy mark?

Facebook status’s and Twitter feeds have been set alight over the past couple of weeks surrounding Facebooks “Instant personalisation pilot programme” and “What your friends can share about you” settings.

For those who don’t already know, Facebook has made changes to the settings (defaults) that mean not only do you get to share (or not share) your information with the world, unless you actively go in and change the default settings your friends can share your information on your behalf.

It is all part of Facebooks plan to know everything about everyone, based on a persons friends and their taste in music, clothes etc..etc.. The problem is it is impossible to develop such a model without some form of invasion of privacy and Facebook seems to have battered down the privacy door in order to move forward.

It is one thing having the ability to share your information with the world, but to default it to on (and add default on settings to previously secured accounts) is not good.

Facebook has been criticised for having an over complicated security model, such that you have to dig deep into menus in order to find the settings you need to turn off. It has improved a little over the past year, but not nearly enough.

The funny thing is I read “The Accidental Billionaires” (the story of Facebook) a few months back and the way Mark Zuckerburg is portrayed (rightly or wrongly) it is absolutely not surprising that Facebook act this way.

I wonder if there was a viable alternative to Facebook if their numbers would take a hit? I know a lot of key figures who are cancelling their Facebook accounts, but I guess the general public are just not aware that their privacy is being given away. It is no wonder that Zuckerburg defends Facebook by stating that they are loved by the public, it is just the bloggers and the media that are on their back.

Anyway…

If you want to secure your account you need to do the following:

Go into :

account > privacy settings > Apps and settings > What your friends can share about you

untick all the boxes (if you dont want your friends sharing your info)

Then go back to privacy settings and into Instant personalisation pilot programme

Untick the box

Now, to be completely secure you must visit each of these pages and select “block” (on the left)

Microsoft Docs.comPandoraYelp

That should do it for now. If Facebook sneak in any more defaults I will post what you need to do to turn them off.

Macbook Madness continues

I posted last week about my long wait for the release of the new Macbook Pro range, hopefully with the Arrandale CPU and enhanced graphics processing.

Well another Tuesday came and went without Apple releasing the new version of its flagship laptop. As I write this the Forum is currently on page 214 of the 5th thread of people waiting for the release.

The problem is nobody really has any idea when the new laptops will be out. All we can be sure of is every day that goes by brings us one day closer to the inevitable release. The problem is there are lots of people who need to make the decision to either buy the current model or wait for the new one.

Without any indication of when the release will happen, all people can do is wait and join the forum discussion  support group.

Apple is really starting to disappoint me as a company. I am a self-confessed fan-boy, but only of their products, not of their company ethos.

I will purchase one of the new Macbook Pros eventually, but I steadfastly refuse to part with significant amounts of money for year old hardware.

How to delete hiberfil.sys on Windows 2008 or Vista

I was (for my sins) working on a Windows Server 2008 box today. To make it worse it was a VM with very little disk space. In trying to find things to remove I found hiberfil.sys sitting there at 4Gb! I tried to delete it but Windows wouldn’t let me. I then went into power settings, disabled hibernation (or so I thought) and tried to delete it again… still no joy.

Anyway, it turns out the easiest (or only, I don’t know) way of deleting this stupid file (why Windows SERVER would need to hibernate anyway is beyond me!) is to drop into command prompt and run the following command:

powercfg -h off

Easy when you know how, but annoying if you don’t!

Sir Richard Branson, stop being greedy!

Before I start, I think Sir Richard Branson is great! As a Brit, I think there are a handful of people that as a nation we can be proud of and Sir Richard Branson is right up there in my book. I have followed his adventures for years, have read his books and I think the man is truly inspirational.

scr_virgin-atlantic-s-flying-without-fear-1.1_120710875That said, while browsing the Apple App Store for iPhone apps I happened upon the Virgin Atlantic “Flying Without Fear” program. I am not scared of flying at all, but I happen to know a few people who are and this app looks great. It covers everything from explaining what all the noises are, the procedures during the flight, the concept of turbulence, right through to what to do if you feel you are starting to panic. Brilliant!

I believe every airline should have things like this. In the grand scheme of things it costs them little to produce and maintain and can be one way in which they can make their potential customers feel welcome and valued, like they actually WANT you to conquer your fear and get on their plane (where you will subsequently pay through the nose for every aspect of your journey).

My problem with this app is they have priced it at $4.99 (£2.99 in the UK). Ok, it is not exactly re-mortgage the house money, but really, this should be FREE. People do not choose to be scared of flying, and as a national carrier, Virgin should be doing more to help those with a legitimate fear of flying. You don’t see airlines refusing to help disabled passengers board the plane, do you? Airlines go out of their way to help the disabled, elderly, and infirm. Why can’t they do the same for those affected by fear of flying?

I have the utmost respect for Sir Richard Branson, but when I first saw this app I thought “great, this is a guy who cares”, then I saw the price tag and was less than impressed.

Yes, I know they are a business and I know there are shareholders to satisfy, but for a company that plans on being one of the first in line to take paying passengers into space, maybe they could break some frontiers a little closer to home first.

I know there is very little chance Mr Branson is reading this post, but if you are… With respect, please don’t try and profit from peoples fears, and most of all, please don’t turn into Alan Sugar!

Fasthosts email outage… Will they ever learn?

It seems that not for the first time UK based Fasthosts Internet have experienced massive outages, this time to their email service. As reported in the UK Business Forums lots of people have found that they have lost access to their email over the past 24 hours. The situation is starting to get resolved for some users, but for many they have lost an entire days worth of email access.

This is not the first time it has happened either. Back in 2007 Fasthosts broke their email system and didn’t have reliable backups. Further back than that their backbone went down for nearly a week.

For a company that claims to provide reliable hosting and support they do not exactly have the best track record. I jumped ship with Fasthosts after one of their big outages as it cost me business. One of their flagship products is reseller hosting, encouraging customers to put all their eggs in one basket. That’s all well and good, but when things go wrong their phonelines tie up and they drop those eggs all over the floor.

This might be ok if you have some hobby sites, but if you rely on hosting for a percentage of your income I would recommend hosting with someone who does answer the phone and has people in place to fix faults fast.

Oh… one last thing… when was the last time you (or your host) did a backup of your sites and email? 😉

Word of the year – “Unfriend”

It looks like modern technology has brought the English language to a new low. “Unfriend” has been named the word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary, chosen from a list of finalists with a tech-savvy bent.

The word, meaning “to remove someone as a “friend” on a social networking site such as Facebook” was chosen ahead of other such ridiculous words such as “intexticated”, “funemployed” and “sexting”.

Maybe I am just old fashioned, and hell I am not one to get all high and mighty on grammar, I struggle at the best of times, but these words remind me of Newspeak from George Orwell’s 1984. The premise is basically to reduce the number of words in the dictionary by removing words that are not needed and replacing them with modifications of other words. So, the opposite of “good” would no longer be “bad” but rather “ungood”.

alesha1Watching the BBC it is clear the English language is in enough trouble as it is. The TV show “Strictly Come Dancing” is the worst offender by far. Alesha Dixon is no candidate for Mensa it must be said, but the BBC should really give her some lessons in English and not allow her to come up with sentences such as “you was good” or “I think you done it better last time”.

As far as I am concerned there should be more focus on teaching correct use of the words currently in the dictionary, rather than dumbing down the dictionary even more than it already is.

One last thing,  “Hashtag” was also a finalist. Sorry, I know what it is, but it sounds like a sport for drug users!

Amazon “super saver” delivery

Yes, time for another rant… it’s been at least 24h since the last one 😀

I ordered Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2 on Tuesday morning because Amazon had it in stock and were price matching the local supermarket which I was too lazy to get out of bed and visit.

I chose the supersaver (free) delivery option as I wasn’t in that much of a hurry and thought as long as I get it this week it should be fine. Anyway, I just logged into Amazon and their estimate for delivery is 17th – 19th!

I must admit it is partly my fault. Mainly because this has happened to me before with Amazon. They offer the expensive shipping options and the reason people pay up is because Amazon sit on the order for 3-4 days before they even start the shipping process.

I should have known better, but it does seem wrong. I can understand paying extra to get it sent courier, or before 12 noon etc, but to pay extra just so the begin the delivery process in a timely manner is a bit off.